Last Friday, a client asked me if Davos is “just a talk shop”

For one week in late September, it seemed all roads led to New York, to the 74th United Nations General Assembly (aka “UNGA”)

Partnerships are in fashion. Donors like the idea that, by asking organisations to work together, to share knowledge, expertise, geographical reach and influence- there is the opportunity to create greater impact and deliver more change. Whilst the theory of partnerships may seem simple, the practice is complex. I was recently asked to lead a workshop that would help build a real, working partnership, one capable of working on one of the most challenging issues we all face – climate change.

BRACED (Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters) is a DFID funded programme that supports NGOs to build the resilience of people to extreme climate events. To be effective BRACED demands that organisations come together to share expertise and work together to create sustainable and scalable solutions. However, delivering change takes more than commitment to a shared cause. It takes commitment to one another; it takes good understanding and a clear, shared direction; and this is where Wasafiri came in.

BRACED Ethiopia, a Christian Aid-led partnership between ActionAid, King’s College London, BBC Media Action and the UK Met Office- invited Wasafiri to lead a workshop for them. The aim of the workshop was to develop the shared commitment, understanding and direction that they needed if they were to secure full funding for a 3-year BRACED project and deliver real, lasting climate change resilience in Ethiopia.

The ‘BRACED Ethiopia Workshop’ was held in April 2014 in Addis Ababa. Over four days it was attended by more than 40 people representing key partnership members, local implementing partners, government, and DFID amongst others. Wasafiri created a process that was participatory and action-focused. We created the space for organisations to build the relationships and understanding of one another that they would need to work together. And then to build a plan and structure that meant everyone knew what they were responsible for and how they would deliver their part. At times the workshop was challenging, there were issues of leadership and participation to address, and agreement of tangible outcomes to achieve. However through shared commitment, a willingness to listen and learn and the co-creation of a tangible plan – together we built a partnership capable of creating real change.

“Thanks Wasafiri – a lot of high energy work in a short space of time” (workshop participant)

“…we all were fascinated by the quality of Katie’s facilitation, light, embracing, probing deeper in to the issues and alternative ideas as well as proper time management and eventually amazing results” (Country Director, Action-Aid)


STOP PRESS: It has just been announced that the partnership has been shortlisted for 3 years of  BRACED funding from DFID.

For more information on BRACED see here


photo credit: <a href=””>CIAT International Center for Tropical Agriculture</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a> <a href=””>cc</a>

The Rwandan Ministry of Natural Resources (MINIRENA) has a remit to coordinate, formulate policy and provide guidance on policy implementation to the environment and natural resources (ENR) sector. The latter is made up of a number of sub-sectors (environment, lands, water resources management, mines and forestry) that provide critical inputs towards poverty reduction efforts within the country, including in rural areas.

Policy implementation in particular is often a daunting task and calls for a dynamic, iterative process that unfolds differently in varying contexts.  One of the key considerations in this regard is the need for sustained capacity at individual, institutional and organisational levels. MINIRENA is a relative newcomer, having only been created in 2011 following a merger between the former Ministry of Lands and Environment and the Ministry of Forestry and Mines. As such, it is still in the process of rebuilding itself.

To assist with this process, UNDP Rwanda commissioned Wasafiri to assess the gaps in MINIRENA’s capacity to effectively deliver on its mandate within the ENR sector. The recommendations which resulted have highlighted specific areas that need strengthening within MINIRENA, which has in turn helped inform UNDP Rwanda programming with respect to capacity building interventions for the next 5 years.

In the framework of the Petersberg Climate Dialogue in May 2010 in Bonn/Germany, South Africa, South Korea and Germany launched the International Partnership on Mitigation and MRV. The overall aim of the Partnership is to support a practical exchange on mitigation-related activities and MRV between developing and developed countries in order to help close the global ambition gap.

To this end, the activities of the Partnership contribute to the design and effective implementation of ‘Low-Emission Development Strategies’ (LEDS), ‘Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions’ (NAMAs) and ‘Measuring, Reporting and Verification’ (MRV) systems.

Bringing together climate experts from a variety of countries, the Partnership seeks to foster mutual learning between peers, identify best practices, establish a shared mitigation-related knowledge base, and disseminate lessons learnt. This will contribute to the building of trust, capacity and expertise, allowing countries to find nationally appropriate solutions to address and combat climate change.

Within this context, technical workshops offer the opportunity for members of the International Partnership on Mitigation and MRV to immerse into particular topics of individual interest within the spectrum of mitigation and MRV. Offering technical workshops, the Partnership aims at contributing to an in-depth understanding of key aspects critical to the implementation of ambitious climate policies.  During the workshops, participants from developing countries may together work on strategies and roadmaps for mitigation policies and measures of their individual countries.

The first technical workshop of the International Partnership on Mitigation and MRV took place in June 2012 for negotiators from member countries of the Partnership dealing with mitigation issues.It analysed the existing UNFCCC framework for MRV, identified necessary requirements and interest regarding MRV in developing countries, and supported  informed decision-making in the negotiations.

Wasafiri Consultant, Sampa Kalungu, was contracted by GIZ to facilitate the workshop, ensuring a participatory approach that promoted exchange of knowledge and experiences from participants. The workshop was a strong success, with participants leaving better able to harness their MRV in order to confidently represent developing countries at international climate change negotiations.

2011 saw the worst drought in 60 years for the Horn of Africa, affecting over 13 million people and leading to famine due to the combination of regional instability, weak governance, a fragile agricultural economy, and low resilience within communities. Six months later, a similar story unfolded in the Sahel, affecting a further 18 million people.

The traditional humanitarian response was failing to create long-term solutions, and at worst was locking people in to a cycle of dependency and vulnerability. A new paradigm was needed that would take an integrated approach to building resilience, by coordinating humanitarian action, with security measures, agricultural growth, disaster risk reduction, long-term safety nets and better governance. This paradigm would require a new level of coordination across humanitarian and development agencies, and with national and regional governments. In 2012, the Global Alliance for Action for Drought Resilience and Growth was launched by African governments and international partners to put resilience at the heart of their efforts in the Horn of Africa and Sahel.

Wasafiri Consulting was called upon to provide independent facilitation of the first meeting of the Global Alliance in mid-2012. Over 2 days, the meeting brought together the international community behind a common understanding of how they could work together to end famine in the Horn of Africa and Sahel – forever. Delegates left with a commitment to collaborate with together and hold each other mutually accountable, and a clear set of actions that would sustain their momentum over the coming year.

As we head into 2012, Wasafiri is asking where tipping points might lie for tackling poverty and related crises.

The future is uncertain. Of that much we’re sure. We live on a small planet with 7 billion people competing for rapidly diminishing resources, clamouring for greater political participation and a higher standard of living. New technology is stirring revolution and geopolitical power is shifting dramatically – all amidst a changing climate and an unprecedented economic crisis.

Such an outlook suggests that crises from conflict to climate change will be unpredictable in where and how they strike, but that we can expect the world’s poor to bear the greatest burden.

Yet amidst this volatility, we believe that new opportunities for tackling such problems will emerge in 2012. And it is often out of the most chaotic and dynamic moments that energy for thinking and acting in new ways begins to emerge. Wasafiri operates at the heart of such moments, working with the people and organisations tackling poverty and related crises. From our privileged vantage point therefore, we take the plunge to consider where opportunities for change may emerge in the year ahead:

Myanmar – capitalising on recent developments to strengthen democratic reform and respect for human rights
Horn of Africa – defining a long-term approach to improving resilience and development in the aftermath of 2011’s worst humanitarian crisis
South Sudan – tackling tribal and political conflict and strengthening government reform in the world’s newest country to lay the foundation for long-term state building
Somalia – tackling the blight of piracy, fundamentalism and poor governance in the world’s most dysfunctional state
Climate change – prototyping new approaches to reducing vulnerability and mitigating the impact of climate change at a country level
African agriculture – accelerating development by growing private sector investment in support of national plans and priorities
Libya – establishing leadership and government capacity for rebuilding the nation
Rwanda – supporting Rwanda’s hunger for development and regional status by strengthening the institutions of government
Afghanistan – supporting the transition from foreign military occupation to Afghan owned social and economic development
Humanitarian leadership – tackling pervasive weaknesses in leadership and coordination, on the back of a resurgence of high-level support for improving the humanitarian system

We also think it worthwhile keeping a keen eye on;

Arab Spring in Africa? – the upheavals of the Middle East and North Africa may well spawn similar discontent further south, where dictators in countries such as Equatorial Guinea, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Angola cling to power as protest movements become more determined
Yemen – a disastrous convergence of poverty, extremism, ethnicity and corrupt government is forcing a growing political will for change
Non-traditional actors – developing nations and the West will grapple with how best to work with the likes of China, India and Brazil to strengthen aid and trade while avoiding the pitfalls
Humanitarian crises – predictably, from hurricanes in the Pacific to famine in the Sahel (especially Niger), new humanitarian crises will curse the developing world, but at ever-increasing cost
Ownership of development – opportunities will lie in building the capacity of national governments to reclaim their own development agenda, shifting power away from the donors
Impact investment – the private sector will increasingly be challenged – and encouraged – to structure and catalyse investments to drive development
Youth engagement – harnessing the energy of young people will also loom larger on the agenda of poor countries plagued by unemployment and increasing numbers of dissatisfied youth

Above all, and turbulent as the world may prove to be in 2012, we predict all manner of new paths to generating concerted action to tackle poverty and related crises.

Bon courage to all fellow travellers!

2009 was a bad year for natural disasters in the Asia-Pacific.

Cyclones in Burma and the Phillipines, floods in Vietnam and volcanic eruptions in Indonesia stretched the capacity and willingness of neighbouring nations to come to the aid of millions affected. Such regional goodwill was further tested by outbreaks of conflict in Papua New-Guinea, the Solomon Islands and East Timor.

A deployable civilian service?

Against this torrid backdrop, the notion of a deployable civilian ‘public-service’ was proposed by a newly elected, liberal Australian government eager to prove itself on the global stage. Its interventions in the region, often as last-minute provider of humanitarian aid and mediator of local conflicts, served to rouse popular support for a rethink of Australia’s response to such crises.

Further impetus for expanding Australia’s aid and diplomatic reach lay in a domestic economic and political climate ripened by a decade long natural-resources boom and a warming of relations across the region

Launched the same year as the militaristic sounding ‘Australian Civilian Corps’, the ACC is now a standing capacity of some 120-odd specialists in public administration and finance, law and justice, engineering, health, stabilisation and humanitarian assistance.

I was recently invited to join an elaborate Foundation Training required of all members, and learned that the Corps aims for a 500 strong cadre by 2014 to enable ‘the rapid deployment of civilian specialists to countries affected by natural disaster or conflict.’

This ambition reflects a wider interest amongst Western nations to bind foreign aid budgets to national security interests. Such trends are grounded in an increasingly popular ideology which views violence and instability as magnified by extreme poverty (Cramer, 2006) – prompting a dramatic growth in funding for so-called ‘fragile states’ such as Afghanistan, Sudan, Yemen and the like. Founded on this newly coined ‘stabilisation doctrine‘, the ACC draws heavily from the experiences of similar efforts by the UK, US, Canada and EU.

Integrating development, diplomacy and defence

This assimilation of development, diplomacy and defence policy is also reflective of a growing shift amongst Western governments toward more integrated, ‘Whole of Government’ approaches. Such trends however, risk obscuring of the distinction between international military, political and poverty reduction objectives.

Regardless, the ACC’s humble achievements to date belie its ambitions beyond simply serving as firefighter and policeman for the Asia-Pacific. Recent forays into Afghanistan, Libya and Haiti give some indication as to the depth of Australia’s determination to flex its international muscle in regions far removed from its own.

On the way, it hopes to ‘advance its reputation and influence in the international community’. Some might look to Australia’s ambitions to secure a seat on the UN Security Council next year as one spur for such ventures (lending further weight to Australia’s self-perception of itself as a ‘Middle Power’ in the region).

Seat or no seat, the birth of the ACC reflects a more prosperous, globally confident, and politically ambitious nation. That said, the test of the Australian Civilian Corps itself will lie in the impact it actually achieves in generating action to overcome crisis and conflict – beyond its own audacious rhetoric.